MY DEFINITION of “Project:” A PROJECT is a goal which can be broken down into several identifiable TASKS.

The realm of the perfectionist is overwhelmed with the pressure to take on exhausting projects, each of which must be fully completed, the entire project and not just a task, before moving on to any other item on the to-do list.

It is the sort of driven-ness which pushes even relationships out the window if they perchance get in the way. I had that kind of relationship once. I asked a question. The vacant eyes of the other told me that I was expendable at that moment. I learned early on to “turn and walk away.”

This writer is not lazy. He does sometimes delay starting or finishing projects. The most significant thing about those two statements is that sometimes THOUGHT is required to do it right. And thought takes time. If thought is done right, the project turns out better AND causes less stress than a hurried project would involve.

As stated in the definition: Almost every project can be broken down into separate identifiable tasks.

Thus, one task can be done as a WHOLE and is sufficient to list as an accomplishment in itself. For example, the project of unloading the dishwasher does not have to be done all at once. Take a few minutes and unload the top level. Congratulations! You have accomplished a task.

Later, while waiting for the tea to steep, put away the clean silverware. You have accomplished another task.

Just before supper is started, you finish the project by stowing the items from the bottom tray.

You accomplished THREE tasks which make up the project.

The point is that sometimes you can complete the project all at once, but if you do not have the time to do it all, you can do an identifiable task toward the goal. Or, if while doing a project you realize that right now you need a major snack, …you CAN get that snack after completing the current task.

I find that incrementalism reduces the stress associated with doing projects. In fact, I have taught the concept to my children (and to a limited extent, my wife).

Just yesterday our first daughter called. She admitted she had used the theory earlier that day and was emotionally rewarded for “completing” a task. This is important for relationships and personal mental health.

As an aside, this is also how I write. Concept. A few paragraphs. Research. The entire article (sometimes). Finally, the review and correction. It can take weeks to finish one submission. My last one was initiated over 8 weeks ago and submitted last night. I find just as much pleasure in the result as I do when one is completed in a couple days. The added benefit is that there are literally tens of unfinished articles waiting for final touches. I experience no pressure to “find” SOMETHING to write about. Nor do I ever have to choose an unworthy topic just to make deadline.

I pity those who cannot incrementalize. I sorrow for the driven perfectionists. They miss out on real life because they cannot stop before they are finished with a project to watch a sunset or talk with a friend. When you die not one person will exclaim as a compliment, “My, how driven he was!”

Those who incrementalize also complete the projects, just on a more sensible schedule. The only thing I want to be driven to complete NOW is to sleep through the entire night. If you awaken me during that project I will look at you with vacant eyes.


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